Death by Burrito
4 Rue de la Fontaine au Roi
Last month brought out the lists of cocktail trends for 2014 and predictions for 2015. One of the things we’ve seen a bit of in Paris – which I think will become more prevalent – is bars focusing on a single spirit. A few years back Sherry Butt opened with a leaning towards whisky. And more recently there’s Mabel, the self proclaimed Cocktail Den and Rum Empire, as well as Lulu White with a list of cocktails, each with a touch of Absinthe. And we also have the subject of today’s post: Death by Burrito
After a string of successful London PopUps and residencies, chef Shay Ola brought his popular Death by Burrito concept to Paris late last year to set up a more permanent space in the 11eme arrondissement (also known as “DBB Paris”). DBB Paris is the city’s latest taqueria/cocktail combo and is getting plenty of press for both its food and drinks. I like tacos. I like cocktails. I like London. So it seemed like a no-brainer choice when I was looking for a spot to take a group of 5 or so for some fun and food last month.
Now, with a name like Death by Burrito, you might think you’ll be getting burritos that are so effin’ big that you’ll choke under their weight. But what you’ll actually find on the menu are 5 pairs of small tacos and 5 small sharing plates like guacamole or trout gravlax with mezcal. Although I do have to admire the server’s attempt to explain the concept as “small, open face burritos” Uh…in other words…tacos? You know what else makes me think they are tacos? They’re called “tacos” on the menu. Contrary to how it might sound, I’m not here to talk smack about the food. Whatever they’re calling it, it’s good. They go beyond the basics without going bonkers and offer up solid fusions like braised pork and kimchi or beef tartare tacos. Ingredients are fresh, tortillas are made onsite, and they don’t shy away from putting a little spice into the mix. [Update: since posting this DBB Paris assures us that burritos are coming soon, so we’ll be back for those.] Now that we have that out of the way, lets dish on the drinks…
DBB Paris made a smart move heading up their bar team with Candelaria veteran, Candice Knyf. Given her prior experience, she’s got a grip on both tequila and mezcal and oversees a menu of 9 cocktails at around 12 Euros, each of which incorporate one of these two spirits. The Slushed and Rosie (mezcal, dolin dry, dolin rouge, aperol & st germain) is refreshing and light, but I’m not sure I could see all of the ingredients at play here. The spicy bitters floating on top of the Mister Maestro (tequila, yellow chartreuse & grapefruit compote) take it from standard to something interesting. And, while I like something that packs more of a punch than the Yo Da Horatcha (tequila, horatcha, agave syrup and Angostura bitters) I think it’s a great addition to the menu.
And, this brings me to a subject I’ve been meaning to touch on. Just because something is not to my particular taste, doesn’t mean it isn’t well done. And, this isn’t some namby-pamby way on my part to get out of calling out the crap and just being too nice. It’s recognition of the general improvement in drink making in Paris. As good practices in making mixed drinks (i.e. fresh ingredients, proper ice, considered choices, striving for balance, etc.) become more widespread, they’ll be applied to a wider range in styles of cocktails. No longer are the conscientious bar staff confined only to speakeasies and cranking out historical classics. That means I may not always rave over a drink or employ the hyperbole that’s I think creeps much too often in the food/drink world – especially in blogs.
Now, let me get back to the topic. If you’d rather sip something straight, you’ll find a good selection of tequilas and mezcals or beer by the bottle. You won’t find wine, other spirits or frozen margaritas. Although a few at our table really wanted margaritas and the staff were very accommodating and made some good ones on the rocks.
Sigh… I feel like both covering a lot of ground and no ground with this post. What I’m trying to say is that DBB Paris isn’t a hole in the wall taco joint cranking out street food with cheap beers and margaritas on tap – and sometimes that’s all I really want. Instead, it’s a noisy, busy, lively new spot that’s serves a more refined and trendy version of tacos and tequila in atmosphere that reflects its “Eat. Drink. Dance” philosophy. And that’s not good or bad. Just different. And it’s fun. And sometimes that’s all I really want as well.